Going Door to Door to Reach One Million

Supporting Leaders

Going Door to Door to Reach One Million

31 Jan 2013

We are delighted to report that, through our malaria prevention work in Sierra Leone, we have now reached over one million people with live-saving messages on how to protect themselves from this deadly disease.

 

Since September 2011, we have empowered Muslim and Christian faith communities to work together to fight malaria in Sierra Leone. Reaching a million people – over one-sixth of the population - represents the hard work of religious leaders and volunteers throughout Sierra Leone, dedicated to ending preventable deaths.

Malaria remains the largest single killer of Sierra Leoneans under the age of five, yet there are only 157 medical practitioners to treat a population of almost 6 million.

But in every village, no matter how remote, there are churches and mosques. The great value of places of worship is not just their bricks and mortar but the trust and authority held by the religious leaders. So the obvious – but not easy – thing to do is to get the Christians and the Muslims working where the medics cannot reach.

We have therefore developed a new interfaith development model to bridge this gap. Working with the government and Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone, we enable Muslim and Christian leaders to work together to train their local congregations and communities in malaria prevention. Find out more about our work.

As of 30 January 2013:

- 330 religious leaders had been trained

- They then trained 8,325 of their community leaders

- These volunteers then made 168,311 household visits, to talk to and educate occupants about how to prevent sickness and death from malaria. With the average household being 6 people in Sierra Leone, we have reached over a million people through household visits alone

Evidence is already emerging that this health messaging work is having an impact on behavioural change around malaria prevention. A survey of our work conducted by Ipsos MORI, a polling organisation, in 2012 found since the work started in September 2011:

- Proportion of people using bed nets has risen by 11%

- A proportion of children experiencing symptoms of malaria has dropped by 8%

- Over 80% of those sampled agreed that the visits helped to educate people on malaria prevention and treatment

Dr Patrick Turay, Medical Director of Holy Spirit Hospital, in Makeni, Sierra Leone, said:

"We are now witnessing that the number of patients being admitted due to both simple and complicated malaria has started to decrease because of the Faiths Act project here in Makeni. Of course other factors may contribute to this decline but there is no doubt that the strategy to take malaria prevention messages to families in their homes by faith leaders and the volunteers trained by the Faiths Act project has played a significant role."

Mrs. Sesay from Makeni, Sierra Leone, said:

"When we received free bed nets during the nationwide campaign in 2010, we did not know the importance of using them until a year later when a member of the religious community, trained by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation's Faiths Act in Sierra Leone team, came to tell us about the importance and proper use of the bed nets to prevent malaria. Since then, all of us (even those sleeping on the floor) sleep under them every night and have not had malaria since."

Talking about our malaria prevention work, Ray Chambers, United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Malaria said:

"What faith communities have working in their favour are networks, infrastructure, and influential leaders to deliver health messages. Now is no time for indifference. Much significant progress has already been made; now we must consolidate our gains. Remember that malaria is a natural disaster that is devastating communities every second of every day. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes can never be stopped. Malaria can be."Learn more about our work in Sierra Leone and stay tuned for the latest @TonyBlair_TBFF